After Rutgers coach Chris Ash voiced view of the quarterback competition as a four-man arms race entering training camp, he reiterated that point further in a follow-up media session by singling out the latest addition to the position group.
“He comes in with an even opportunity,” Ash said of TCU graduate transfer Zach Allen, who joined the Scarlet Knights in June after three years with the Horned Frogs. “He’s at the same level as the other guys right now. That was why we brought him in. We didn’t bring in a grad transfer to be third on the depth chart. We want to give him every opportunity to go out and win the starting job just like the other guys.”
The landscape for the ongoing Rutgers quarterback battle headlines juniors Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, followed by redshirt sophomore Giovanni Rescigno, redshirt freshman Michael Dare and 2016 newcomer Tylin Oden.
But with the top of the totem pole in Laviano and Rettig lacking enough consistency to spring one of the two ahead, Ash went searching for another option to add to the mix.
“Inconsistent would be the best word to describe it,” Ash said of Laviano and Rettig.
Enter Allen, a former Elite 11 quarterback with the dual-threat athleticism that fits offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer’s spread offense.
“That’s why we did what we did by bringing in Zach,” Ash said. “We had to get guys to be more consistent in their play. We had to get guys to be more consistent in their leadership, more consistent in their commitment to being the best that they can be in terms of film study and the weight room and just training overall. All of those things we inconsistent and we have to get that changed. That was the reason we brought Zach in is we tried to basically throw a bomb in the room and get guys to change.”
While Allen is only nearing two months in Piscataway, Ash made it clear that his newest quarterback has put everyone else on the depth chart on notice by how he carries himself.
“It has changed behavior,” Ash said. “It's increased performance so far without getting out on the field. In terms of what they've done in the in the weight room and in the workouts this summer, he's done exactly what we wanted him to do by bringing him in. We'll go out and put on the helmets and shoulder pads and throw the balls out and we'll see what happens then. But we have created competition in a room that needed competition. We've made individuals uncomfortable that need to be made uncomfortable. They've all responded in the right way.”
With Allen and his two years of remaining eligibility in the mix for the starting gig, the split for time on the field narrows among the rest of the signal callers.
Ash left the door open for using multiple quarterbacks if his preference of a one-quarterback system doesn’t pan, but he addressed the reality that his decisions won’t keep everyone happy.
“Are all six guys going to get reps with the ones? No, not a chance,” he said. “But it’s our job to be able to filter through it very quickly and identify who can give us a chance to go out and win. Throughout the course of the summer, some of those thoughts and ideas have been formulated by how they worked in the weight room and, honestly, this summer they probably made it even more challenging because they have stepped up to the plate and done a good job.”
“No there's no timetable,” he said. “Obviously the earlier we can do it the better so you can create some consistency at the quarterback position with the rest of the offense. If it takes us two weeks or three weeks, that's what it takes. We're going to try to do everything we can to put them in position to show what they can do early on in training camp to try to separate themselves.”